The covenant of redemption is pretemporal, intratrinitarian, and foundational with reference to God’s dealings with his elect. It is referred to in the 2nd London Confession of Faith 1677/1689 (2LCF) 7:3 as “that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect” and 2LCF 8:1 further explains “It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between both, to be the mediator between God and man.”

This transaction or covenant was made in eternity past, and hence, it is pretemporal. The parties involved in the covenant are the persons of the Trinity, hence it is intratrinitarian. The covenant of redemption is the backdrop for the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, specifically his obedience to the Father.

Finally, it serves as the framework for God’s salvation of his people; hence it is foundational. Richard A. Muller writes: “It emphasizes the eternal, inviolable, and Trinitarian foundation of the covenant of grace.”[1]

While the 2LCF specifically refers to the covenant of redemption, there is no specific text in the Bible which uses that precise terminology, however, the doctrine is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures by good and necessary consequence. In the first place, the relationship between the Father and the Son with reference to the Son’s work assumes an antecedent arrangement. The Father gave a specific and definite number of people to the Son that he would save by his redemptive work (John 6:37; 10:27-29; 17:2; Heb. 2:10). The Father sent the Son into the world to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21; 10:40; John 3:17; 5:23, 24, 30, 36, 37; 6:29, 39; 7:16, 18, 28, 29, 33-34; 8:16, 18, 29, 42; 10:36; 12:44-45).

Second, the Son obeyed the law perfectly in order to satisfy the covenant of works which was the obedience agreed upon by the Son in the covenant of redemption, or the eternal transaction with his Father (the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah; John 2:16-17; 3:14; 6:38-39; 8:29, 55; 10:18; 12:27-28, 49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:4; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8; 10:5-10).

This aspect of Christ’s covenant-keeping is part of the theological rationale for his active obedience which is vitally connected to his passive obedience, both of which are imputed to the elect in the matter of justification (2LCF 11:1).

The Bible also highlights the fact that Christ was rewarded by his Father for having accomplished the purpose for which he sent him (Isa. 53:10-12; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 12:2; also, Jesus proleptically claimed his reward prior to the cross, John 17:5, 6, 9, 24).

Third, the Bible uses covenantal language to depict the transaction entered into by the Father and the Son. The Father swore an oath that Christ would be “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; see also Heb. 7:20-21). The Son confers (gives) the kingdom to his disciples via covenantal language: “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.”[2] The kingdom covenantally conferred to the disciples is the kingdom covenantally conferred by the Father to the Son.

Also in this series:

  1. The Covenant of Works
  2. The Covenant of Grace